2020 Buick Encore GX Essence. The Iconic Brand in Mini Format

Buick Encore GX: Overview

Buick Encore GX with the range-topping Essence trim is the subject of this article.
Buick, the iconic American brand is also one of the oldest on the planet. David Dunbar Buick started this company in 1899. William C. Durant had served as Buick’s general manager and major investor before he founded General Motors (GM) in 1908. In other words, Buick was the company that established GM. Yet, after a century, Buick survived the global economic crisis mainly thanks to its success in China and escaped the same fate with Oldsmobile and Pontiac. After several decades of success in the 20th century, Buick underwent a big transformation and adaptation in the last two decades. Buick is now a premium brand within the GM portfolio and became mainly an SUV brand positioned under Cadillac. Baby boomers who remember the grand, comfortable sedans and stations of the 1950s and 1960s would be (and I bet are) surprised to see at least some current Buick models, such as the subcompact Encore and “subcompact plus” Encore GX.

Within the rich portfolio of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac SUVs you need to do some homework to understand which model is what for. Just Buick offers now four different SUV models (excluding the submodels); Encore, Encore GX, Envision, Enclave. For instance, the Encore is the smallest SUV and a more premium version of the Chevrolet Trax. Both vehicles share the same subcompact GM architecture.

The Buick Encore GX, our tester is a subcompact “plus” SUV, because it is positioned “slightly above” its namesake Encore. Although the names are very similar the Encore GX is the slightly bigger SUV sharing the same platform with the Chevrolet Trailblazer, its corporate cousin. They are both manufactured in South Korea.

GM’s determination to fill every segment in the SUV market is apparent as you have a closer look at model portfolios of Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac.

Buick Encore GX: Engine and transmission

The 1.3-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine generates 155 horsepower at 5,600 r.p.m., but 174 lb.-ft. of torque, at as low as 1,600 r.p.m. The torque band is wide up to 4,000.

Babyboomers who drove a Park Avenue or a Roadmaster mid of the last century may not believe it: But the Encore GX is a small vehicle with a 1.3L, 155 horsepower engine with only three cylinders mated to an efficient 9-speed transmission. This engine is not the smoothest or the most powerful for a Buick, but it does the job. You hear some injector sound and it even feels like a diesel when cold. But the turbocharger generates a sufficient amount of torque to move the vehicle easily. The engine reaches 174 lb-ft of torque at as low as 1600 rpm and the torque curve remains flat until about 4,000 rpm.

Buick Encore GX: Interior

Ergonomically designed dashboard with easy readouts is part of a luxurious ambiance inside

The rearseats offer above-class-average leg and headroom

The job is done. Inside the cabin, you are surrounded by nice materials (except the center console to a certain extend). Perforated leather seats contribute to the premium atmosphere. Matte-black dash top does not only look good but also meaningful to reduce reflections into the windshield. Matte-finished metallic door handles and HVAC vents complement the premium look. The instrument cluster and the infotainment screen are well laid out, easy to read and monitor. Considering Buick’s still “senior” client base, this practicality makes more sense.

Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and a Wi-Fi hot spot for up to seven devices are features most clients will love and admire in today’s hyperconnected world. You also have lots of storage spaces “spread over the cabin”.

The air ionizer system helps remove pollen and dust from the car.

The seating position is a bit too high, but this is not a bad feature for most people. GX has a longer wheelbase than the standard Encore and this positive difference is apparent with better legroom in the rear. The headroom is also generous for this class.

Unlike previous GM models, the Buick Encore GX allows you to turn off auto start-stop, which people complained in the past that you were unable to do so.

The rear seat-backs split-fold one-third/two-thirds, adding practicality. The front passenger seat can also fold flat for added luggage-space and makes the Encore more functional and capable.

The button on the driver’s door lets you open the power liftgate all the way or halfway (for lower garage ceilings).

The rearview mirror can also function as a rearview camera with a washer. An intelligent solution especially in winter conditions.

Buick Encore GX: Driving Impressions

The Buick Encore GX offers part-time selectable four-wheel drive as standard with the range-topping Essence trim. This feature definitely makes our tester more “SUVish”.  However, the Buick Encore GX is more for on-road comfort, rather than for off-road or sporty driving. The cabin insulation is good and deserves a “premium note”. Noise levels are good for a small car, with no excessive wind or tire noise. We found the Encore fun to drive in the city with its good maneuverability and easy-to-park feature. Also on the highway, it easily flows with the traffic at every speed thanks to its turbocharging yet small engine. Not surprisingly, the Encore GX is easy to park too.

Buick Encore GX: Consumption

Our average consumption after a-week of the mixed-mode drive was 8.2 litres, which is reasonable. It could be lower with a more economical driving style.

 

2020 Buick Encore GX Essence

In the previous century, it was almost impossible to imagine this brand as a sub-compact plus SUV

Buick Encore GX: Pricing and specifications

The Buick Encore GX starts at $26,098 for a front-drive “Preferred” trim level. Our tester, the top-of-the-range Essence comes with a part-time selectable four-wheel drive, with all the options has an MSRP of $38,373.

For pricing and specifications of our tester, please see the window sticker below:

2020 Buick Encore GX Essence: Conclusion

It looks like the GM, after much pain and suffering, has reasonably defined its hierarchy of brands and the portfolio for each brand. In the case of Buick, time will tell, if the contemporary interpretation of Buick as a premium brand will bring long-term success especially in reaching younger generations. For now, at least, it makes a lot of sense for an empty nester to reconnect with the brand of his or her youth while driving a small but premium SUV bearing the prestige of an iconic American brand.

Until BEVs like the Chevrolet Bolt gain widespread acceptance, economical vehicles with the traditional ICE’s like the Buick encore GX we tested, will play an important role. Expect a long transition

For more detailed information, please visit: https://www.buick.ca/en

Article by Varol McKars, photos by Varol McKars and Dan Gunay